The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 25, 2013

Inmate gets 3-6 years for assaulting state prison guard

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

SUNBURY —  Emotions spilled into the hallways of the Northumberland County Courthouse on Monday after Deshawn Jamison was sentenced to three to six years in state prison for assaulting a guard.

Jamison, 22, of York, appeared before President Judge Robert Sacavage to be sentenced on a felony aggravated assault charge after a 2010 scuffle at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township. A county jury found him guilty of one of five charges last month.

Jamison, who most recently has been housed at the Northumberland County Prison, represented himself and presented his case over the course of a two-day trial.

After more than 20 hours of testimony, the 22-year-old, who lacks a high school diploma, convinced a jury to acquit him of five of six charges, including one felony charge that could have resulted in extending his sentence by as many as 14 years. The sentence the judge imposed will be served after Jamison completes a 6 1/2- to 11-year prison term for a York County traffic fatality.

“I’ll appeal this,” Jamison told his family after the sentencing was imposed. “Keep your head up.”

That response didn’t seem to satisfy members of the Jamison’s family, who exploded over the sentence Sacavage imposed as they left the courtroom, causing deputy sheriffs to scramble to tighten security.

“This poor kid has been getting harassed from these guards from day one,” Jamison’s father yelled at SCI Coal Township Superintendent David Varano and three correctional officers. “You guys pick on a kid, and there is nothing we can do.”

Jamison continued to tell his family to stay calm as he was escorted out of the courtroom.

“It will be OK,” he said. “It will all work out.”

As the Jamison family left the courthouse, Varano and the guards stayed behind and were escorted out of the building as bystanders stopped to watch the commotion.

Less than a half hour earlier, Jamison entered the courtroom and immediately objected to several findings in a pre-sentence investigation.

Jamison asked the judge to throw out criminal charges that were filed against him when he was 13 years old.

Sacavage turned his attention to one of the correctional officers who was struck by Jamison.

“I’m now nervous at work when I hear a door open,” the guard told the judge. “I also lost rapport with inmates.”

Then Superintendent Varano spoke.

“You can see his record right in front of you,” Varano said to Sacavage. “He has clearly demonstrated he was not going to be compliant while serving his time in the prison system.”

Varano asked Sacavage to impose a sentence on the high end of the seven years Jamison faced.

Jamison spoke on his own behalf. “I have received misconducts, but in the prison system there is no jury to decide anything,” he said. “So it’s always my word versus a guard’s. I am not a violent person and I used my time wisely to learn the law and history.”

“I don’t believe anyone in the jury believed I was a violent person and I still maintain my innocence. I am not a hardened criminal. I have a family that loves me and I believe it will do more harm to sentence me to more prison time than to let me go home.”

Sacavage disagreed.

“The jury did find you not guilty of many of the charges, but they found you guilty of one,” Sacavage said before sentencing him.

Jamison has been in prison since he was 15 after he was arrested and convicted of being involved in a high-speed chase in York County that resulted in a fatality. He was sentenced to a state prison term of 6 1/2 to 11 years.

“I’m going to get a new trial,” Jamison said. “But I thank you judge.”